It is again time to look back and see what my favourite images are from what I’ve published this year. With a long and wet spring, a long hot drought summer, and an almost non-existent fall before the cold came… it has been an “interesting” year to work with!
Working on my 2023 Nature Calendar every year helps get this list started, though there are usually a few differences as I have a more limited scope of themes for the calendar. If you click on a photo below you’ll be taken to my Image Library. I’ve also linked to corresponding blog posts that contain these images (if available) to provide more information about the location or to see other photos from that area. As usual, choosing 10 images is rather difficult (and I cheated this year), even though these should be considered my favourites and not the “best” necessarily. These aren’t in any order really as that would be just too hard!
I hope you enjoy this years selections and am curious to hear if you have any particular favourites!
For many years Jim Goldstein maintained a list of photographer’s top 10 posts but he seems to have given that up. For the past few years Tracy Schultze has created his own list which you can ask to be part of. You can find his list here: https://tmschultze.com/pages/photography/best-of-2022-blog-posts/. I always discover some interesting photographers on these lists.
A Fairy Slipper Orchid (Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis) blooming on the forest floor of Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Fairy Slipper Orchid (Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis) Flower (Purchase)
During my trip to Salt Spring Island in April, I visited Ruckle Provincial Park and spent many hours walking around, hiking, and taking in the views from various shoreline trails. Initially I spent about 45 minutes photographing Ruckle Heritage Farm which I outlined in my previous post. After photographing the farm I headed into the forest and shoreline trails to see what I could find. There are great trails in Ruckle Provincial Park that give a variety of views ranging from farmland, ocean, forests, and beaches. One thing that especially caught my eye during that walk was the variety of wildflowers. Most of these species I’d not seen on the mainland, and were new to me entirely.
The first photograph here is a Fairy Slipper (Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis) which is also known as Calypso Orchid or Venus’s Slipper. These orchids have no nectar, and trick Bumblebees into pollinating them through deceptive scents and shapes that mimic nectar containing flowers. I don’t think I’ve seen any orchids in the wild before, so this was a nice find. The entire flower and stem shown here was maybe 5cm (2inches) tall at the most. Very easy to miss while walking by in the forest!
When I photograph almost anything from buildings to animals, plants, mountains, lakes, creeks etc – I always try to find the proper name for the location or species. Wildflowers I’ve never seen pose a bit more of a challenge, as I’m not quite as sure where to start in a guidebook or other ways of identifying a species. Another hurdle can be that many species look nearly alike, and sometimes identification would have to come down to characteristics not revealed in a photograph. In the case of the variety of Cardamine species I found on Salt Spring, a lack of good photos of the leaves didn’t help me out any! I really need to engrave something like “photograph the leaves too!” on the back of my camera so I have those as a tool for identifying later at home. The Cardamine above I am fairly sure is a Cardamine nuttallii or Slender Toothwort. This species also goes by the names Beautiful Bittercress, Nuttall’s Toothwort, and Palmate Toothwort. I also photographed Angled Bittercress (Cardamine angulata). There are a few other Cardamine species that all look very similar which made narrowing these down a big of a lengthy challenge! Mountain peaks are comparatively easy.
One species I had not seen before, but was anticipating seeing while on Salt Spring were the White Fawn Lilies (Erythronium oregonum). I was not disappointed – they were very frequently seen in Ruckle Provincial Park. Not a easy plant to photograph I discovered, especially when there is a bit of wind. The flowers point down so I made a lot of exposures (read: way too many) trying various angles. I liked the photograph above as it is backlit, and the sunlight shining through highlights the orange and yellow colours near the centre of the flower. The photograph below shows the White Fawn Lily in the kind of environment I usually encountered them – underneath some tree cover (in this case a Garry Oak) and mixed in with grass and other plants. Their usual environment in southern British Columbia is along the coast at lower elevations in forests and open meadows. This species is also known as the Giant White Fawn Lily.
White Fawn Lily (E. oregonum) underneath a Garry Oak (Purchase)
I was attracted to these Large-flowered Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) flowers (below) initially due to their blue color but then because of the large amount of Bumblebees zipping about from flower to flower. The flowers are quite small, but were growing in large groups, usually mixed in with various mosses, on the more open spots along the rocky shoreline at Ruckle. Bees on flower photos are not something I normally attempt in a park – it can be a low percentage of a success much like other fast moving wildlife, but I couldn’t resist this time. It all worked out as this particular Bumblebee was moving from flower to flower a bit slower (and close to where I was on the trail), and I was able to make a sharp photograph as it collected nectar from these flowers. The yellow sacs you see on the bee’s back legs are called Corbiculae or Pollen baskets and are used for collecting pollen.
Bumblebee on Large-flowered Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) flowers (Purchase)
Much like the Fairy Slipper in the first photograph, I’m lucky to have spotted this Fringed Redmaids (Calandrinia ciliata) flower nestled in the mosses and grasses in an open area along the shoreline. Not a species I was familiar with, but they are said to be quite common on the Southern Gulf Islands.
I came across this Chickweed Monkeyflower (Erythranthe alsinoides) blooming in an open area in the campground at Ruckle Provincial Park. I’d previously photographed Harvest Brodiaea in almost the same spot a few years ago. This Monkeyflower is sometimes listed as Mimulus alsinoides or Wingstem Monkey-flower.
I also had some luck spotting these Small-flowered Woodland-Star (Lithophragma parviflorum) flowers on the forest floor. While they are larger than the orchid, this was the only one I saw. L. parviflorum is also known as the Small-flowered Fringecup or Prairie Star, and is part of the Saxifrage family.
I’m cheating slightly with the photo of a Common Stork’s-Bill (Erodium cicutarium) flower below, as I didn’t photograph it at Ruckle. The day before I was in Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park with my friend who lives on the island and spotted this one at the base of some Garry Oaks. The Stork’s Bill is another flower I don’t think I’ve seen before. Unfortunately, it is an invasive weed from Europe and not native to British Columbia. For some reason it always feels slightly disappointing to look up a species you’ve just discovered only to find it the name starts with “common”! While we were in Burgoyne Bay my friend pointed out some birds in the water along the shore he hadn’t noticed before. Common Mergansers, of course.
Common Stork’s-Bill (Erodium cicutarium) (Purchase)
For more photographs of Salt Spring Salt Spring Island, Ruckle Provincial Park, and the island’s wildflowers, visit my Salt Spring Island gallery.
Common Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) flowers blooming at Campbell Valley Park in Langley, British Columbia, Canada.
Common Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) at Campbell Valley Park (Purchase)
Campbell Valley Regional Park is a 548 hectare park I live fairly close to, and so I visit it quite often. It can be fairly quiet in the evenings there, so it is a good destination for a spur of the moment visit. The photos here are from a walk I did through north side of the park back in mid July. The trails through the fields and forests there can be a good spot to look for wildflowers both native and invasive. Of the invasive variety is the Common Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) above which is a species I’ve not noticed in the park before. The flowers remind me a bit of Scotch Broom and Toadflax, both of which are also invasive species here in British Columbia.
Backlit Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) at Campbell Valley Park (Purchase)
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I hadn’t intended to photograph this backlit Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) as a panorama of sorts, but it wasn’t a subject I could approach as I wished. The fern was growing well off the trail so I cropped the photo I made (always from the trail!) as the top and bottom were intruded upon by tree branches in the forest. The back lighting was attractive though, so I worked with a longer lens to get as many fern fronds in as possible.
I have photographed Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus ssp. columbianus) in Campbell Valley Park before, but this one stuck around a lot longer than previous Deer I’ve seen. This was in one of the corners of the park I haven’t visited very often. I’d previously been very close to a Coyote hunting in the same field, and the only reason I don’t have a good photo of it is that this encounter occurred when I had my widest lens on the camera. The Coyote did not stick around for a lens change. I was already using my longer lens when I came across this Deer, and instead of bounding away at first sight, it kept a slightly wary eye on me as it grazed in the field.
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) (Purchase)
Have you ever had some disappointment in getting home after photographing or seeing a “new to you” species only to find the name starts with “Common“? Such was the case twice with photographs from this evening, first with the Common Birds-foot Trefoil above and then again with the Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) I photographed foraging in the tall grasses. I also photographed a mustard-like flower species that I preliminarily identified as one with the word common at the beginning, but as I’m not sure of that ID I haven’t published it here.
This particular Common Yellowthroat was a bird I could hear far more than it was a bird I could see. I stuck around on the edge of the patch of tall grass and waited to see if the bird would emerge and I could make a photograph. Eventually, it moved further down the trail, and I was able to see it after maybe 5-10 minutes of just hearing its call. As you may see in the photograph this individual has caught some sort of caterpillar or grub for dinner – but was still making its call frequently. I guess birds don’t worry about talking with their mouth full.
Unfortunately there seem to be a lot of invasive species growing in Campbell Valley Regional Park. Along with the Birds-foot Trefoil and unidentified mustard, the Iris plants around McLean Pond appears to be an invasive species as well. I don’t recall having seen it flower recently, so I could be incorrect, but this appears to be Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus). I’ve photographed Yellow Flag Iris in a few locations before (Nanaimo, Pitt Meadows) but hadn’t seen it here in Langley before. Despite the species’ ecological malfeasance (it can create large colonies in wetlands, out competing native species and creating an environment that few native species can utilize for food or habitat.) I liked the patterns made by the sword-like leaves. I also experimented and made a black and white version.
Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) on the edge of McLean Pond at Campbell Valley Park (Purchase)
A pair of Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) flowers in the forest at Campbell Valley Regional Park in Langley, BC.
A pair of Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) flowers at Campbell Valley Regional Park (Purchase)
A number of years ago I temporarily gave up on photographing Western Trilliums in the various parks I frequent as I wasn’t having much success. I enjoy finding these somewhat rare flowers in the forest, and usually photographed them each spring along with the much more common Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa). While I had some success about 10 years ago, for quite a few years I came up empty, got the timing wrong, or someone had picked the flowers. So for a few years I didn’t have these flowers on my spring agenda specifically, and photographed other subjects instead. I came across the flower below next to a cedar tree while not really looking for photography subjects and a few days later came back and made all of the photographs in this post in one afternoon.
Western Trilliums are also known as Pacific Trillium, Wake Robins, and Western White Trillium. They grow in western North America, from here in Southern BC down to central California, and as far east as Alberta, Idaho, and Montana. Trilliums are a perennial plant that grows up above the surface from rhizomes. Technically, they do not produce true leaves above the ground. The stem is considered a part of the rhizome and the above ground part of the plant is an upright flowering scape. The leaf like structures, which most still generally refer to as leaves as they are photosynthetic, are bracts – a kind of modified leaf. One familiar example of bracts are the bright parts of the poinsettia “flower”, which are not the true flower, nor are they true leaves.
Western Trillium (T. ovatum) flower at Williams Park (Purchase)
The Western Trillium tends to be found growing in coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous forests here in British Columbia. The two places I found them the most frequently this year were those kinds of forests in Langley’s Williams Park and the Metro Vancouver’s Campbell Valley Regional Park. The first photograph here shows a pair of Trillium blooms in Campbell Valley Park, in a mostly coniferous forest. The second photograph above shows a maturing flower at the base of a cedar trunk along with a frequent companion – the Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa). Despite the much higher than usual traffic on the trails this spring I was happy to find no flowers that had been picked. In southwestern British Columbia Trilliums can most often be found flowering in March or April, with some still lingering into May depending on the weather. I photographed all of these in the third week of April.
A group of Trillium flowers growing on the forest floor (Purchase)
Some T. ovatum plants emerge as individual stalks, but sometimes can be found in a group. I am not sure if they will grow multiple stalks from the same rhizome, but in the photo above, I would think this large group is the result of multiple plants growing in the same area.
Western Trillium flowers start out white, but as they mature turn a pink or purple colour. I photographed the flower below in Williams Park, and it had turned a very nice dark shade of pink/purple at that time. You can see the brown starting to form on the lower left petal which is a sign this flower had nearly reached the end of its display. The numerous seeds from the resulting fruit is quite attractive to ants and is often dispersed by them as they take the fruit back to their nests.
Mature Western Trillium Flower in Williams Park (Purchase)
While mature Trillium plants will keep the above ground portion of the scape intact for a time after flowering (given there is sufficient moisture), the less mature tend to disintegrate the above ground plant more quickly.
Pair of Trillium Flowers Growing Together under the Forest Canopy (Purchase)
Depending on conditions T. ovatum may go into dormancy for a few years before growing an above ground scape and flowers again. This could be one reason I had little success for a few years in finding them, though it seems unlikely they’d be dormant all at once in such numbers. The Trillium below was interesting as it was all by itself, there were very few other plants around it on the forest floor. I’d previously mostly frequently encountered them mixed in with Bleeding Hearts, Sword Ferns, False lily-of-the-valley, Foam flower, or under Salmonberry Bushes.
A White Trillium Flower in Campbell Valley Park (Purchase)
For more photographs of Trilliums and other wildflowers visit my Wildflower Photos Gallery.
I’ve photographed a few species of wildflowers in parks near where I live this spring and summer, and I thought I’d put them all in one post. The above photograph is a Siberian Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia sibirica) plant I found blooming this spring at Williams Park in Langley, BC. I photographed the Miner’s Lettuce during one of my first tentative trips out to photograph after being mostly at home due to the pandemic. I’ve usually seen Siberian Miner’s Lettuce in closer proximity to each other, but this one was standing almost alone so I could isolate it in the photograph.
I photographed these Smooth Hawksbeard (Crepis capillaris) flowers this summer in a field at Campbell Valley Regional Park. I hadn’t explored this particular part of the park before, so I didn’t have any expectations. I had a close encounter with a very healthy looking Coyote while it was hunting in the field, but this came as I had a wide angle lens on my camera (of course). It stayed around long enough for me to switch to a 100-400 but when I slowly stood up again to see if it was there it ran off. However, I kept the 100-400 on for the remaining time I had in the field and photographed these Hawksbeard flowers using that lens. I stay on trails, so the longer focal length (318mm) I was able to use here came in handy. While I bought it for wildlife this lens can make a small subject like wildflowers feel pretty close even though I’m many feet away.
Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca)
Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) Flowers Visited by Bumblebees (Purchase)
I photographed this Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) in the same Campbell Valley Park field this spring while it was being visited by a few bumblebees. This was from 2.45 meters (8 feet) away – so I was glad to have the longer lens. I made a few photographs of various Vetch plants in the field, but the bumblebees really seemed to love this one, so I stuck with it and was happy to get some photos with multiple bees at once.
Tiger Lilies (Lilium columbianum)
I have only seen Tiger Lilies (Lilium columbianum) blooming in the wild once before – and that was on Vancouver Island near Port Alberni (Stamp River Falls) in 2013. So when I found these flowers in the forest next to a trail early this summer in Aldergrove Regional Park I was glad I had my camera with me. Also known as the Columbia Lily or Oregon Lily – Tiger Lilies were eaten by the Coast Salish people usually as a flavouring or condiment. The very green maple leaves mixed in appear to belong to a young Vine Maple tree.
Tiger Lilies (Lilium columbianum) in Aldergrove Regional Park (Purchase)
Large-leaved Avens (Geum macrophyllum)
I photographed these Large-leaved Avens (Geum macrophyllum) flowers and leaves on the forest floor at Campbell Valley Regional Park while photographing the Barred Owl owlets a few weeks ago. I usually notice Avens when the velcro like hooks on the seeds grab onto my clothing and come home for a ride. This method of seed distribution seems quite effective though I am probably not the target animal for that kind of distribution. This time, however, they were flowering right next to the trail where I was photographing the owls, so I took a break from recording owl screeching sounds to photograph a few flowers near the trail.
Large-leaved Avens (Geum macrophyllum) flowers and leaves (Purchase)
You can see these and more photographs of spring and summer wildflowers in my Wildflower Photos Gallery.
A pair of Stream Violet (Viola gabella) flowers at Golden Ears Park in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada.
Stream Violet Flowers (Viola gabella) at Golden Ears Park (Purchase)
I haven’t shared any wildflower photographs here in a while so I thought I’d post these Stream Violet flowers (Viola gabella) I came across a few weeks ago. Now that the spring rains are here I’ve not been out walking as much, so I took the opportunity on this day to get out and walk about 10km in Golden Ears Provincial Park. Along one of the trails near Gold Creek I saw these Stream Violets blooming but for some reason didn’t photograph them until I passed them again on the way back. I was mainly out for the exercise and to scout one location but I had my camera with me of course.
Stream Violet Flowers (Viola gabella) at Golden Ears Provincial Park (Purchase)
Stream Violets and a few other species of yellow flowered Viola here in BC are a bit difficult to ID, but I think these are the correct species. The Stream Violets go by other names as well – Yellow Wood Violet and Pioneer Violet. These Violets tend to grow along streams or in moist areas in forests, which were the conditions I found them in along Gold Creek.
Lower Falls and the emerald pools of Gold Creek at Golden Ears Provincial Park in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada.
Lower Falls in Golden Ears Provincial Park (Purchase)
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One of the easier hikes to do in Golden Ears Provincial Park is the Lower Falls Trail (map) along Gold Creek. The trailhead is easy to find at the northwest end of the parking lot (the grey spot just after the Gold Creek Bridge on the map linked earlier). This hike is only 5.5km (round trip) and has minimal elevation change which makes it much more accessible than some of the other trails in Golden Ears Park. The trail has also been upgraded in recent years, so much of it is crushed gravel. Personally I dislike walking on crushed gravel and prefer a natural trail even with tree roots, slugs and the occasional puddle. I guess the resurfacing does have some benefit in initial parts of the trail that were often filled with puddles and mud in the spring and fall, but I would have preferred they left the rest as is. I have previously hiked to Alder Flats on a number of occasions, and while that is a nice hike, it doesn’t have the scenery one gets to enjoy along the much easier Lower Falls Trail.
After walking about 1km up the trail from the parking lot I came to the first spot where I stopped for photography. There are many small side trails down to the creek along the entire Lower Falls Trail (be sure to follow those instead of making your own). My first stop was only about 5 meters from the trail and showed a nice summer view of Gold Creek. This looks to be a good spot to stop during fall foliage colors as well.
My next stop was probably the most famous spot along the Lower Falls Trail – the viewpoint where one can see Gold Creek and parts of Mount Blandshard. Just before this viewpoint you’ll see a number of side trails to a beach which is a great spot to stop and eat lunch or just relax.
After a 10-15 minute walk from the viewpoint I arrived at my ultimate destination: Lower Falls itself. The water levels shown here are probably more typical in late August, but were this low in late June due to our lack of winter snowpack in the mountains and a drought this spring/summer. In normal years this waterfall will be a raging torrent in fall, winter and spring – and can be quite dangerous. I was able to get up on a rock and photograph Lower Falls from a nice vantage point but only due to the lower water levels and lack of strong currents (and depth) in the water below. In far too many of the past years people have fallen into the water at various points in Gold Creek and died as a result.
Many of the cracks in the rocks near Lower Falls had Streambank Arnica (Arnica amplexicaulis) growing in them. I was lucky that one of the Arnica plants was in a good position to include in the above composition along with the waterfall. On my way back to the main viewing platform I photographed one of the other Streambank Arnica plants growing in a crack in one of the boulders beneath the falls.
Streambank Arnica (Arnica amplexicaulis) flowering next to Lower Falls (Purchase)
Hiking in the wildflowers around Tipsoo Lake in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State, USA.
Hiking in the Wildflowers at Mount Rainier’s Tipsoo Lake
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Due to the very dry, hot spring/summer which has come after a winter with a lower than normal snowpack, I hear the wildflowers are nearing (or at) peak now at Mount Rainier (July 1, 2015).
2012 was the first time I visited Mount Rainier National Park during the height of the wildflowers in the Paradise and Tipsoo Lake areas. I had been to Rainier a few times at that point, but once you see fields of wildflowers this dense it becomes harder to visit any other time of year. I made this image of 3 hikers near Tipsoo Lake on a foggy afternoon which made for perfect conditions to photograph this location.